Ratnapura (City of gems in English) being the gateway to the hill country from the Southern plains, it is considered the capital of Sri Lankan Gem trade. Sri Lankan gem mining has a history of least 2000 years recorded in various forms, including Mahawansa, the ancient chronicle of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka has produced three of the world’s largest blue sapphires, including the “Blue Belle of Asia” which adorned the British crown and holds the world record for any Sapphire sold at an auction, as well as the “Star of India”, displayed at the New York Museum of Natural History
Apart from the centuries long gem trades and mines, Ratnapura is also famous for large tea and rubber plantations that surround the city, with the help of a considerably higher rainfall of 4000-5000mm annually, which also creates lush greenery and stunning waterfalls such as Bopath Falls, Katugas Ella Falls and Kirindi Ella Falls to name a few.
Established by a local gemmologist, this impressive private collection of precious stones in Ratnapura (plus quartz, fossils and artefacts) is a good place to learn about gem mining in Sri Lanka.
The Sabaragamuwa Maha Saman Devalaya is considered the main Devalaya of deity Saman except for the Shrine at top of Sri Pada.
When they first landed in Sri Lanka, the Portuguese armies marched towards Seethawaka looting and destroying all Buddhist structures. Saman Devalaya was among the structures that got affected. Due to being constructed on higher grounds, the temple grounds were considered a perfect location for the Portuguese fort. Later the King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe (1747 – 1781) marched from Kandy and regained Ratnapura, destroying the Portuguese Fort, and re-built the Maha Saman Devalaya on the site.
Situated in the Ratnapura district with a height of 7,360 feet (2,243 meters), Sri Pada (or Adam’s Peak) is the second highest mountain in Sri Lanka.
According to the Mahawansa, the Great Chronicle of Sri Lanka, Lord Buddha visited Sri Lanka three times and the last place Buddha visited was Sri Pada / Adam’s Peak. It is believed that Lord Buddha left his foot print on the rock at top of the mountain at the invitation of the Deity Saman (Saman Deviyo).
The Sri Pada / Adam’s Peak season starts from full moon of December and ends on full moon of April. The hike up to the summit takes 5-6 hours and most of the visitors start at night to avoid the heat of the day, and it is regarded as a pilgrimage rather than a hike for the locals.
There are 6 accessible trails up to the summit starting from Hatton-Nallathanni; Ratnapura-Palabaddala; Kuruwita-Erathna; Murraywatte; Mookuwatte and Malimboda. All 6 trails have their own distinctive features and various difficulty levels. However Ratnapura - Erathna is considered the most beaten track out of all, infested with leeches and difficult terrain. This is only recommended for experienced trekkers looking for a challenge. It is recommended to do a thorough research before you start this fairly difficult hike, on any trail.
For its unique and high biodiversity, Sinharaja Rain Forest was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Ranging in altitude from 300m to 1,170m, Sinharaja Rain Forest spreads over 18,900 acres of land in south-west lowland wet zone of Sri Lanka and falling into the Sabaragamuwa and Southern provinces.
According to the meteorological department Sinharaja Rain Forest gets 3614mm to 5006mm annual rainfall, benefiting from both monsoon seasons.
Due to the complex vegetation structure, over 60% of plants, over 21 (95% of all endemic birds in Sri Lankan) species of endemic birds, more than 50% of endemic butterflies and 8 out of 12 endemic mammals recorded in Sri Lanka have also been documented to be present in Sinharaja Rain Forest.
Best recommended hiking season being between December to April, 2 main trails can be found in Sinharaja Rain Forest, both starting from the Kudawa Conservation Centre. One trail leads to the Sinhagala peak with a distance of 2.4Km and elevation gain of 300m at Trail Head and 473m at Trail End and approximately 5-7 hours trekking time.
The second trail leads towards the Maulawella peak with an elevation of 457m at Trail Head to 758m at Trail End with 2.4Km distance, estimating 1-2hours trekking time.
Located approximately 165 km south-east of Colombo, the Udawalawe National Park sits on the boundary of Sri Lanka's wet and dry zones spreading over 30,821 hectares. Udawalawe National Park is home to approximately 12 species of amphibians, 33 species of reptiles, 43 types of mammals, 21 kinds of fish and 184 varieties of birds, all of which includes the 400 elephants, the water buffalos, water monitor lizards, sambar deer and monkeys which reside in the Udawalawe park vicinity and are a common sight on Udawalawe safaris.
The Udawalawe National Park was originally created to provide sanctuary for the elephants displaced by the construction of Udawalawe reservoir covering 30,821 hectares in 1972. The Udawalawe National Park currently stands as the third most visited park in Sri Lanka.
Udawalawe National Park is most famous among nature photographers, birdwatchers and researchers due to the higher number of endemic species and for the high probability of spotting many of the species due to the relatively smaller expanse of other parks in Sri Lanka.
6m in height, Katugas Falls is a splendid waterfall hidden among a little patch of forest in Weralupa, Ratnapura.
Water from the fall irrigates the paddy fields of the Udakada and Kuruwita areas. Considered as one of the most studied falls in Sri Lanka for its rich biodiversity and folklore surrounding the falls and the area, Bopath Falls gets name due to its cascading shape of a Bo leaf (path), during the monsoon season.
Note: Be very careful as Bopath Falls is famous for flash floods and a history of unfortunate accidents.
Ratnapura is located approximately 85km from Colombo and can be accessed through via Panadura and Awissawella. Ratnapura can also easily be accessible by bus from Colombo throughout the day